Virtue Rewarded, the Bodyguard’s Tale

The Men have a project.

The project requires heavy duty electric cable.which  is not available locally unless ordered especially and risks costing an arm and a leg.


Buy it in San Jose.

Fortuitously, Geraldo also requires cable of the same dimensions – and his son knows where to buy it.


In the Coca Cola market where – anxious gringos would have you believe –  babies are barbecued to order and men leap from the shadows to cut off any finger bearing a gold ring.

There is some slight foundation for this folk tale: I was shopping for veg there when a gentleman sidled up alongside and advised me not to wear my tiger eye ring as it was genuine and might attract persons less respectful than himself.

What about my wedding ring? I enquired.

What do you take us for, senora?  We are not barbarians: of course we respect a wedding ring..but that tiger eye might attract the interest of the wrong type.

How do you know it’s not a fake?

We know.


Normally Leo would have accompanied Danilo and Geraldo  –  he loves the Coca Cola where bargaining is the breath of life – but, recovering as he is, he could not cope with the journey and a long morning of negotiations.

He would give Danilo the money – cash speaks louder than bank cards in the Coca Cola  – and Danilo and Geraldo would pick up what was needed, taking our car for transport.

No! This would not do!

Why not?

Danilo was worried  that he might be mugged with all that money on him. I should go with them and carry the money.

And what if I were to be mugged?

No problem…Geraldo and I will protect you.


So it was arranged that there would be a joint expedition to San Jose: the gentlemen would buy the cable and then I would pick up bulk bones and offal for the dogs and a freezer load of wholemeal bread from our favourite baker.

We set off……to a running commentary from Geraldo on the latest scandals relating to houses that we passed ……until arriving in the centre of San Jose where Danilo had planned to use his favourite parking lot.

It was full. It always is.

He proposed pulling up in front of it until the queue disappeared and then driving round the block to enter.

I proposed driving to Coca Cola and seeking on street parking.

As it was my car I eventually prevailed against the sucking of teeth and dire warnings of roaming the streets forever….

We pulled up in front of the shop recommended by Geraldo’s son and were directed to a spot further down the road where a ‘guatchiman’ (watchman) was paid to look after the car. Distinctly cheaper than the parking lot.

The shop recommended by Geraldo’s son did not have the cable of the dimensions required.

However, as we left a gentleman approached us with an offer to sell us the cable in question. We followed him to a back street lock up whose garage door – once raised – revealed  reels of cable in all dimensions – save  that which we sought.

Not to worry , he said…I can get it for you.

Thinking that we just bet he could we beat a retreat saying that we needed it today and started combing Coca Cola for the cable we required – and its price.

Leo on form would have loved it…by the time we had checked every stall my feet hurt and my brain was scrambled but eventually we hit on the shop we needed.

Our order was measured out on the pavement , upon which a series of five metre marks were indicated by strips of yellow paint. Danilo stationed himself at one end and Geraldo at the other to see  that no hanky panky took place while the staff pulled cable from the drum. All duly approved by the committee, our cable was rolled and we turned to Geraldo’s order.

But there was a problem. Geraldo had brought money enough to pay for the cable on his son’s estimate of prices. This cable was slightly dearer.

He would come back the next day and take the cable on the bus.

Nonsense. I lent him the money which he would pay me the next day – as he did.

Duty done we headed for the central market car park where I asked Danilo pick up a sack of bones and offal, giving him the money, while I  went to draw from the cash machine at the Banco Nacional down the road and do some general shopping.


No, no, no! Thus Geraldo.

He, Danilo, could not let me loose, unescorted, in San Jose!  What was he thinking of?

So it was that I found myself shadowed by a tiny man of over seventy years of age – the Costa Rican version of Cohen the Barbarian – as I entered the Art Deco edifice of the Banco Nacional. Drawing my money I was about to sort out my bag at the table provided, watched over by security guards.

No, no, no!

I must put my card and money away at the cash point…who knew who might be watching!

But there are guards…

Guards! Where will they be if you are mugged on the doorstep…?

Prisoner and escort – we must have looked like the Queen of Tonga and her lunch – headed back to the central market. Pausing to buy tomatoes from my regular supplier I found that  Geraldo had been vetting the bags prepared for sale and advised the stall holder to give me a bag of my choosing…and was given another for himself.

We met Danilo in the Central Market hauling the  huge sack of bones and offal to the car and went to buy fish and prawns.

Geraldo insisted on sifting through the prawns..something that – as they were on offer – I would not have done… and was rewarded with two fillets of fish for being so careful of my interests…

We were loaded by this time so I sent him with the bags to join Danilo at the car while I ventured into the Mercado Borbon – reputation even worse that that of Coca Cola – in search of pigs’ liver for sausages.

Three minutes’ later he was at my side…hailed by my regular butcher as my body guard and given a half kilo of sausages for his lunch…

Off in the car to  the bakery where Geraldo insisted on inspecting every loaf..and was given a chili pastry for his pains……


On the way home Danilo remarked that he was never given freebies..

That, said Geraldo, is because you don’t know your job.














39 thoughts on “Virtue Rewarded, the Bodyguard’s Tale”

    1. Looks like a kilo of tomatoes, two fillets of fish, half a kilo of sausages and a chili pasty…..
      No real problems in San Jose….like many cities there are times and places to avoid.

  1. Super post, Helen – when are you going to write that book?

    What a great trip you had, potential danger around every corner but with a mini-bodyguard at hand to protect you. Good tip about being selective with the foodstuffs; I hope Danilo learned from it. 🙂

    Do hope Leo is fully restored to normal service.

    1. Book….if only. I have the Person from Porlock problem at the best of times….
      He is recovering slowly – two steps forward, one back…..thank you.

      I don’t find San Jose hazardous: but Geraldo certainly thinks it is: quite a new experience having someone watch my back!

  2. My trip to Tesco’s for milk seems somewhat mild in comparison.
    I might borrow him next time I am in Chelmsford mind.

  3. I’ve read that Costa Rica (the country), is one of the most environmentally friendly countries in the world. Now I see it truly starts at the bottom, with with conscientious citizens. There obviously is reward in taking care.

    1. Don’t believe all you read…..there’s a whole lot of eco noises made, but only this year has a start been made on cleaning up the rivers passing through San Jose…
      But the people are nice…and caring – on the whole.

  4. I found that truly surreal. Makes Spain look almost first world. Except for the banks of course. Did I tell you, the bank we normally pay our electricity bill at has imposed a charge to pay the bills? You have to pay to pay? Aaaaagh.

    1. Nice one! I have that for our water concession here…you can only pay it at one bank where, if you are not a client, you have to pay their commission – which is about as much as the bill (O.K. mini money, but all the same’!)

      1. €2 a bill. Bills are currently bimonthly. A libretto costs £15 a quarter. This may mean a trip to the main post office in town for future bills if they are still free. Waterbill in spain can only paid at the office between 9–1. Same office in La Linea but natch they aren’t linked.
        There is no mini money these days ££££££

  5. Goodness, it sounds like you were risking your life (and cash and valuables) simply walking into such a nefarious district. Not to mention the possibility of being swindled by every shopkeeper on the way. The next time I go to Sainsbury’s I shall fully appreciate the civilised transactions I usually take for granted!

    1. It was a large amount of money, to be fair,…but there’s nothing to worry about really. The Coca Cola has a bad reputation as there is a bus station there serving the tourist areas on the Pacific beaches so there are the inevitable hustlers and sneak thieves. At night it is a different prospect as is the Mercado Borbon as there are a lot of drugs circulating among the street dwellers in the area.
      Swindling? No,it’s like anywhere else- you look at the quality, ask the price and make up your mind. Geraldo is just a perfectionist!
      I live in the country -and country people are always suspicious of town life – though in my opinion there is more going on in the country that wouldn’t bear too much scrutiny….

  6. Wow. I hadn’t realised that shopping was so exciting in Costa Rica. I suppose I imagined markets full of friendly laughing people in straw hats…. or maybe that is also true ….? just rather scary friendly laughing people maybe.

    Wonderful piece! You are such a good writer Helen!

    1. I find it similar to shopping in any market….you need to keep an eye on your valuables. After dark is another matter – but that goes for a lot of places in the world. Having a tiny elderly bodyguard did give me the giggles though…

  7. I am not sure that you are doing much for Costa Rica’s tourist trade, but if that is how life is, you might as well be honest about it. In the UK we take civilisation for granted and expect the rest of the world to be the same.

    1. All the guides suggest leaving San Jose as quickly as possible – to spend money in the luxury prison camp resorts on the beach….. whose lights disorient turtles seeking to lay their eggs….who pump sewage into the mangrove swamps and deprive local communities of drinking water. – not to speak of barring legal access to the beaches for all.

      I like San Jose. Super parks, lots of things going on, lovely architecture and nice people.
      Street sellers inevitably pack my shopping bags, I’ve had young men carry heavy bags down to the bus station for me and refuse a tip…

      Like anywhere else it has its down side too….

  8. I read this days ago and meant to comment but…….
    I think nowadays in S. Africa it would be much the same, but they would act like Barbarians, no respect for your wedding ring I am sure! Again though RSA has its up side as well as its down side. I must get my tiger’s eye ring out, I have not worn it for ages and I do love it!
    Take care both of you and have a good weekend. Diane

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